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Profile - Simon Barlow

My life as a professional artist began at the age of 16, when I sold a painting of a Peregrine Falcon to a school friend's parents, while at boarding school in the Zimbabwean bush. Inspired by an artist friend, our mutual hobby of egg-collecting, and a love of all things natural, bird painting soon occupied me more than school work. Even after graduating from art school with a diploma in graphic design, painting birds was preferable to working in an advertising agency.

Living and working in the Cape, South Africa, I promoted my work holding solo exhibitions, which attracted commissions and established my career in the genre. The highlight of that period was the publication of Gamebirds of Southern Africa, now in it's second edition, and described here.

After moving to Australia, I changed my genre and medium. From delicate birds painted with fine sable brushes in watercolour, I moved to painting large floral studies with bristle brushes and acrylic. This was prompted not only by the financial necessities of living in a new country and working in a different market, but it was the perfect opportunity to start 'painting'- which I had always wanted to do. Since then, painting mainly floral studies has been the vehicle via which I have taught myself to paint on canvas. The subject was still of a natural nature, providing me with a vast choice of subjects, and had wide appeal.

I have approached the floral compositions as landscapes, rather than studies of arrangements. I have found myself drawn into the complex and varied colours, textures and structures that make up these compositions. Using dramatic lighting and a large format, and inspired by artists like the Baroque artist Caravaggio, these paintings express the wonder these extentions of the plant kingdom hold for me. Although I work in a representative, or realistic style, flowers are quite surreal to me. The'organs of reproduction' of plants, they sprout, bloom and die, representing the cycle of life and every earthly organism's mortality.